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Weekly Alibi Nurse Ratchett

No, Virginia, There Isn't a Cure For Your Hangover.

By Mike Ratchett, Staff Nurse

AUGUST 11, 1997:  This one's by request, and not my own. Of course, if I weren't at the very least an occasional drinker (nurses are people, too), I wouldn't bother writing on this particular topic, but I feel that, like the author of the letter that inspired the article that follows, I am among the majority. That said, let's talk about drinking, hangovers and what you can do to make the whole process fit better.

Not drinking alcoholic beverages at all, of course, is the only true way to avoid hangovers altogether. But who in their right mind is going to choose abstinence over occasional piss drunkenness? For some people, what they drink has a whole lot more to do with the quality (and by that I mean intensity) of their hangover symptoms. The sulfites found in most varieties of wine and sparkling wine, for instance, can trigger some pretty nasty responses, including asthma attacks in those susceptible, intensified headaches--even migraines--in just about anybody with even a slight sensitivity to sulfa-class drugs and, yes, death in cases of extreme reaction.

In the bloodstream, alcohol acts as a vasodilator, hence the false sensation of warm honey being poured over you after you slam a Wild Turkey shot with that guy or girl you wouldn't even consider speaking to if not for the fact that he/she bought you a drink. And it's that very attribute, experts believe, that leads to the Whattasized headache you get when you drink too much. So what do you do about it?

The jury, as it were, is still out. Most hangover remedies--from Golden Seal to V-8 juice--rely heavily on the placebo effect for success. If a particular individual with a hangover thinks Village Inn pancakes will cure what ails him, they probably will, at least partially. There's no cure, per se, but you can treat the symptoms:

Sleep: Chances are, if you drank too much last night, you also stayed out too late, resulting in three or four hours of a state somewhere between sleep and unconsciousness. And that doesn't count. My recommendation: Don't drink heavily on work/school nights, or call in sick. Sleeping it off is the best way to fully recover.

Water: You drink it, dummy, at the rate of one glass per alcoholic beverage and as much as you can gulp before bedtime. Not only does a glass of water after every cocktail make you less likely to over-imbibe, your body (read: liver) requires more than four times the amount of H2O than the amount of the cocktail itself to metabolize your daiquiri. Plenty of water the morning after and throughout the day is recommended as well. Simple. Trust me.

Caffeine: I'm gonna take a bunch of shit for this, but caffeine--a vasoconstrictor--is proven to be effective in treating hangover symptoms. Coffee, tea--even chocolate--are good sources for this bad drug.

Hair of the Dog: It works, but are you really that stupid? A maybe, if you're unemployed and proud of it.

Stick to Your Morning Routine: Do you normally eat a big breakfast? Do sit-ups in the morning? Jog two miles? Stick to it, chump. You may vomit, but your body is used to your routine and, in the end, will thank you by possibly not afflicting you with diarrhea.

Tylenol, Advil, etc: Overrated, but acetaminophen and ibuprophen will relieve your headache. Of course, you'll get to keep the upset stomach and feel like shit. Aspirin, a better pain reliever, will make your stomach, liver and kidneys hate you even more than they already do.

In the end, the best thing you can do is drink responsibly and try not to impress your friends by behaving like a complete imbecile. Hangovers are hard on your body. If you get one, you deserve it. Learn from your body.

--Mike Ratchett

Alibi Staff Nurse

achoo@alibi.com


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